doi:10.1038/nindia.2008.271 Published online 1 September 2008
Purdue University professor Rusi Taleyarkhan who lost an appeal in a misconduct case last week says he is the victim of "blatant discrimination against Indian professors" by an errant administrator of the university.
The India born nuclear engineer and discoverer of 'bubble fusion', however, says the science behind his discovery has come unscathed after the ordeal he has undergone in the last two years.
Purdue University on August 27 formally reprimanded and sanctioned Taleyarkhan. A university committee rejected his appeal against the decision of an earlier enquiry that found him guilty of two misconduct charges: (1) He added a student's name to papers to suggest that he was a witness to the experiments and (2) he stated falsely that his results had been independently confirmed.
Taleyarkhan will remain a member of the Purdue faculty. He can not be a thesis advisor for graduate students for at least the next three years.
While the university has allowed Taleyarkhan to remain a member of its faculty, he can not be a thesis advisor for graduate students for at least the next three years. He will no longer have a named professorship and lose all associated rights and privileges, including the allocation of discretionary resources.
In an e-mail to this correspondent, Taleyarkhan alleged that the appeal process was a farce. Purdue's own attorney acted as the judge and the jury was hand-picked, he said. He pointed out that a committee of distinguished professors and academics constituted by the university in 2006 had absolved him of the very same charges.
He said the two allegations of misconduct were trivial administrative issues and had nothing to do with the discovery of bubble nuclear fusion or the underlying science.
In 2002 Taleyarkhan, then at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, made the revolutionary claim with co-workers of having discovered a novel fusion process that could lead to a new source of clean nuclear energy1. Taleyarkhan later joined Purdue in 2004 and continued his work there.
Dubbed bubble fusion or sonofusion is a table-top experiment that bombards a flask of deuterated acetone with sound waves. This results in rapidly expanding bubbles that, on collapse, generate temperatures hot enough for deuterium atoms to fuse and release energy.
Taleyarkhan's problems really began after a report in Nature cast doubts on the veracity of his claims2. Researchers in the University of California at Los Alamos (UCLA) could not confirm his claims triggering allegations of fraud and fabrication of data. In all, he faced 34 charges of misconduct.
Multiple government investigations subsequently cleared Taleyarkhan of all the misconduct charges. However the final report of the Purdue investigation released 18 July 2008, held him guilty on two counts of misconduct. Taleyarkhan had appealed against this decision.
This sort of treatment cannot be tolerated in a US university — it could happen to virtually any other faculty member, not just of Indian origin
Taleyarkhan says last week's rejection of his appeal will not change the future of bubble fusion. "My team actually feels vindicated," he said in the e-mail.
"All allegations of fraud and fabrication have been dismissed as invalid and without merit — thereby supporting the underlying science and experimental data as being on solid ground even if we don't understand all the ramifications as yet," Taleyarkhan said.
He said that any lingering doubts about the veracity of the experiments have been removed with his group's latest paper3 which explains why the UCLA group could not repeat his experiment.
"Targeting me for misconduct does not make sense at all. It is blatant discrimination against Indian professors by an errant administrator condoned (and) now covered up," he said about his punishment.
"This sort of treatment cannot be tolerated in a US university — it could happen to virtually any other faculty member, not just of Indian origin," he said.
"As a faculty member and US citizen, I have a right to appeal the findings by Purdue University in this matter along with seeking redress for the extensive damage caused to me and several others from the courts of the United States," his statement said.
Taleyarkhan said his attorney has already initiated a civil law suit in the state of Indiana but a trial date has not been set.
"It's very ugly," commented Steven Krivit, editor of California based New Energy Times and author of Special Report on Bubble Fusion/Sonofusion. "Today Taleyarkhan may be facing the same destiny that Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons (of cold fusion fame) faced."